PS22 Chorus: What's the secret to their success?

The PS22 Chorus brought their hearts and musical gifts to the Oscars Sunday night. Where did those fifth graders of the PS22 Chorus come from, and how did they get so famous?

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    PS 22 Staten Island Chorus performing on Sept. 21, 2010 at New Yorkers for Children, a fund-raising event.
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The appearance of the PS22 Chorus on the Oscars Sunday night brought well-deserved recognition to Staten Island fifth graders, Mr. B. , and the power of YouTube.

Without any of those three key ingredients, they wouldn’t have been seen by some 40 million-plus US TV viewers.

These kids are great. What’s most inspiring is how uninhibited they are. Not stiff or uptight, they move as if they’ve been told its OK to express what they feel, not just with their voices but with every fiber of their being.

Recommended: The Oscars 2011: How real are the reality-based Best Picture nominees?

That’s, of course, what “Mr. B,” aka Gregg Breinberg, tells his kids.

The amazing PS22 choir director and music teacher draws his talent from Graniteville, N.Y., and has been doing so since 2000. Each year, he auditions another set of 10-year-olds for the chorus.

"These kids come from families who are having a tough time economically," he told the Los Angeles Times this month, during a rehearsal. "They have a hard time expressing themselves with words, but through this choral experience, there's so much emotion there, both coming from them and the people watching them."

Mr. B. has been smart to draw on pop songs that the kids can relate to. But he’s more than just a junior “Glee” chorus director.

Over the years, PS22 fame has built. Central to that exposure has been the blog Mr. B started in 2006, and the posting of performances on YouTube (which only began itself in 2005).

Check out the PS22 Chorus blog. It has the latest video clips of their performances (scroll to the very end to see them listed by year) and includes the school’s version of “American Idol” auditions. You won't learn much about Mr. B from the many articles or video clips on the blog, except perhaps one: "True North" is an original piece written by Mr. B, sung by the chorus in 2011, and dedicated to his grandmother.

"I'm very grateful that she was able to experience the journey of PS22 Chorus during the past 11 years," Breinberg writes. "I know it brought her incredible pride and joy every time she got to see and hear the kids."

Each year, he would bring the chorus to her retirement home to sing. She passed on last month.

The PS22 videos have had more than 28 million views – and counting.

The result: PS22 chorus invitations to 9/11 tribute events, the White House Christmas Tree lighting, the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” and of course, Sunday night's performance of "Over the Rainbow" on the Academy Awards.

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